Whistleblowers are part of the American Tradition and Congress, the state legislatures, and the courts have enacted laws or legal precedents that protect them.
Why are whistleblowers so important? They speak out and challenge practices that are fundamentally wrong when others would be silent. Thinking back to the origins of the republic, whistleblowers orchestrated the Boston Tea Party. They challenged segregated schools and the doctrine of separate but equal and other discriminatory practices – once accepted – but that are now proscribed by law.
Whistleblowers were and are the forefront of exposing corporate fraud including the Enron scandal and whistleblowers have spoken out about illegal marketing practices in the pharmaceutical industry. The truth is that for every law that has made America a safer place, there is no doubt that a whistleblower spoke out about practices that lead to legislation.
That is why laws like the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the National Labor Relations Act all have provisions that protect whistleblowers from retaliation. It is why many state courts have created or adopted the doctrine of “discharge in violation of public policy” which allows – under certain circumstances – those who have been terminated because they spoke out – a right of action in court.
And some statutes – like state and federal false claims acts – even provide whistleblowers with a bounty – or portion of the recovery – if they bring a suit that results in returning money to the government.
And so if you decide to become a whistleblower, you should keep in mind that you are part of a proud American tradition.